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And these are the 25 books that nearly made the grade…

September 22, 2011

As a continuation of one of my latest posts on the top 50 books on horse racing, as identified by John Randall and his colleagues at the Racing Post, the article also lists the “25 books that nearly made the grade.” I almost overlooked this list, which is at the bottom of Part 1, numbers 31-50 of the list, and I’m glad I noticed it recently. Randall does not provide descriptions of these 25 books, as he did with the top 50. Here are the three that are I have, with short descriptions based on my research.

#14 of the next best books on horse racing is The Brigadier: The Story of Brigadier Gerard, by John Hislop (1973). The dust jacket now is protected with a mylar cover, which is why there is a bit of reflection in the photograph. Hislop was the breeder of Brigadier Gerard, one of the best and most popular British Thoroughbred race horses of the 20th century, winning 17 of his 18 races, and in this book, he tells their story. As described on the inside of the dust jacket,

Now John Hislop tells how for years he and his wife had bred and raced horses on a modest income; of how his life’s ambition had been to acquire a brood mare from the family of the immortal race mare Pretty Polly; how he found such a mare at the Newmarket sales, paying only 400 gns. for her; and how as a result the Hislops, by sending her daughter La Paiva to an unfashionable stallion, produced from her a foal whom they were sure was a true champion. They were right, and the theory and practice of their achievement Mr. Hislop fascinatingly describes.

400 gns. (or guineas) is approximately $675. Interestingly, many race horses are still sold in guineas, which is the currency in which they were sold hundreds of years ago. There are a lot of great photographs of Brigadier Gerard throughout this fascinating book too.

#18 on this list is The Great Breeders and their Methods, by Abram Hewitt (1982). I wrote about this book in an earlier post. I’ll add that Hewitt wrote, about the breeders he discusses in the book:

However much experimenting and unplanned ‘mindless probing’ most of these breeders had to do before striking a winning vein, this would seem to be no longer wholly necessary for new breeders entering the field today. New breeders are in a position to study the breeding operations of their predecessors and to screen out the important features which were the foundation of great successes in the past.

Our earnest hope is that the more important of these features have been pointed out in the chapters in The Great Breeders and Their Methods, and that this may be of some possible help to present day and future breeders.

I can see how this book would be important in the field of horse racing and worth reading.

and #19 is Vincent O’Brien’s Great Horses, by Ivor Herbert and Jacqueline O’Brien (1984). Vincent O’Brien was an Irish race horse trainer, who was voted the greatest influence in horse racing history in The Racing Post’s 2003 world-wide poll. Herbert had full-cooperation of O’Brien in writing the book, and the trainer’s wife, Jacqueline O’Brien, is co-author, providing a lot of the background material. As described on the dust jacket,

This is the first inside account of sixteen of the most famous horses trained by Vincent O’Brien, from triple Gold Cup winner Cottage Rake to Irish Sweeps Derby winner El Gran Senor. In between gallop the like of Hatton’s Grace, Royal Tan, Ballymoss and Gladness, Sir Ivor, Nijinsky, The Minstrel, Alleged and Golden Fleece.

Both this book and The Brigadier give personal accounts of their authors’ lives in horse breeding and racing, providing unique insights into their successes. With Hewitt’s book, there is a lot of information about breeding and horse racing, supported by amazing photographs of the horses and breeders involved.

If you’d like more information on these books, please let me know.

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